What does God say about war, sacrificing and suffering?
On November 11th, each year, we commemorate those brave men and women who have fought to protect our freedoms. Thank you, one and all, for your service!
The Bible is a beautiful tapestry, with many threads woven through it, one of those threads being God's desire for us to understand the causes of our suffering and sacrifices.
God tells us we are in the middle of a spiritual war between good and evil, Eph 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This is a struggle defined by eternity, and there is only one capable of granting us entry. In this life, we will either learn of this struggle and choose God's side, or we will be lost in the darkness of this world and separated from His love, Matt 12:30, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." Suffering and sacrifices are part of this war. Merriam-Webster defines "war" as: “a struggle or competition between opposing forces for a particular end” and "sacrifice" as: “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.” So, every war is a struggle to achieve certain ends, Phil 3:14, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." which require some sacrifices, Rom 8:18, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
God calls us to make a decision, Deut 30:19, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” God is telling us the struggles we find in this life, including the battles we witness, are all part of the larger spiritual war between good and evil. This war is being fought for our eternal souls. God wants us to choose to live with Him for eternity. He is telling us it is our choice. God uses love, truth, freedom, sacrifices, and gentleness; as His weapons in this war. The devil uses hatred, lies, slavery, selfishness, and murder; as his weapons. When we honestly evaluate our actions or others' actions, we can clearly see which side of this war each of us is choosing. Unfortunately, some of these battles are being fought within our own families, as members choose different sides in this war, Lk 12:51-52, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.” These family battles can ruin lives and have caused many sleepless nights.
God was willing to sacrifice His Son on a cross to offer us salvation as part of this spiritual war. Can we imagine how difficult a choice this would be? An all-powerful creator God watching His Son being mocked and crucified by sinful people. How many of us would be willing to do the same? Can we feel the agony Abraham experienced when God asked Him to sacrifice his son Isaac, Gen 22:6-8, “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” God wants us to feel, deep in our hearts, the sacrifices being made to save our eternal souls. He does this to clarify the importance of making a decision and to help us endure the sacrifices required in this life, which determine the side we have chosen in this war. He wants each of us to appreciate the choice before us. When we refuse to make sacrifices, when we ignore the necessity of picking God's side, we demonstrate the things we have placed before Him, Ex 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Understanding there is only one God leads us to reason with Him, putting us on the path to Him and the eternal life He promises, Is 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." He wants us to know that reasoning with Him, 2 Tim 3:16-17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." leads us to His truth and salvation.
Countries also pick sides in this war, as the leaders of these countries act in support of the side they have chosen, Lk 21:9, “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.” Wars produce victims, collateral damage as it were, as battles rage. These wars are part of the greater conflict between good and evil. Our veterans serve in defense of our country and the freedoms it provides.
The horrible things we witness every day in the news declare that the spiritual battles are raging all around us, as innocent victims are being harmed. We read about genocide, beheadings, suicides, slave trade, school shootings, rapes, abused spouses, and terrorism of all kinds, even in our own country. The devil uses these techniques to create fear. He hopes our fearfulness will lead us away from God. But, when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we no longer need to fear, since, He has seen the end from the beginning, Is 46:10, "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" and He tells us we need not fear anything in this world, for He is with us, Is 41:10, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
God calls us to live the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” If we all decided to live the fruit of the Spirit, our gentle natures would not allow any of us to harm others, there would be no collateral damage, and there would be no need for laws. This is the heaven He is creating for us. Our need for laws proves we are not living in a world following the fruit of the Spirit. It is also proof some of us have not chosen to be part of His eternal family.
War is messy. People die on both sides. One of the tragedies of war is the innocent lives are lost without knowing the “why” behind the war. Millions have sacrificed their lives to help us see the choice before us, Acts 7:59-60, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Stephen echoed Christ’s words, Lk 22:34, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” demonstrating the selfless caring for others, which leads us to eternity.
God has given us a measuring stick to help us identify the behavior, which leads us away from the evil side of this war, 3 Jn 11, “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.” and 1 Cor 13:13, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” and Eph 4:1-3, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” and Rom 13:10, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” and Col 3:12, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;” and 1 Jn 3:18, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Can it be any clearer?
Jesus promises us His peace, no matter what is going on around us, all we need to do is have faith, Jn 14:27 16:33, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid...These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The time we spend in this world is but a speck on the timeline of eternity. We cannot let this short time affect our eternal future, so we must learn to follow the fruit of the Spirit, despite our suffering and the sacrifices we witness or experience.
When we have the hope Jesus brought us, deeply rooted in our hearts, we can have His peace no matter what is going on around us Rom 10:9, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." We then learn to peacefully accept the sacrifices we are making in this war to save souls from eternal death. What sacrifice is too great to save even one soul? The military slogan, "no man left behind," is an echo of Jesus' words, urging us to save as many souls as we can, Matt 18:12, "How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?" God experiences our sacrifices, our suffering, and our pain. He chooses to strengthen us and encourage us as we defend His calling for us to be selfless, Ps 144:1, "Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:" and Josh 1:9, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."
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